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House budget nixes plans to buy more recreational land

The House is considering a federal budget that calls for taking care of public recreational land we've got and not acquiring more. On Wednesday, April 9, the House is debating the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (H. Con. Res. 96). The House began debate on Tuesday, April 8 and resumes it Wednesday.

The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee rejected the Obama Administration's request to add funds to acquire more land under the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which has traditionally received between $250 million and $450 million a year. The administration had proposed increasing it to $900 million and making $550 million of that mandatory spending in FY 15. In subsequent years, the $900 million would all become mandatory.

But the committee rejected the request, explaining that the “federal government is already struggling with a maintenance backlog on the millions of acres it controls--a backlog totaling between $17 and $22 billion--but the administration is seeking to acquire even more land. This budget keeps funding for land acquisition under congressional oversight and focuses on eliminating the maintenance backlog before moving to acquire additional lands.”

Another provision in the budget would hamper the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) ability to buy more land. Currently, when the bureau sells land, it uses the funds to buy other property after deducting its sales expenses. But the House budget calls for 70 percent of the sales price after expenses to go to the Treasury for deficit reduction instead. BLM would be limited to spending $60 million a year (not counting administrative expenses) to buy and restore land. Republicans are worried that the government is buying property without specific consent of Congress.

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